“Explanations of compassion bore me,” he said, “because they are, by and large, useless prayers.”

“Useless prayers?” I asked, though I had some inkling of his meaning.

“Let me first illustrate for you an example of a useful prayer. A useful prayer is one that inspires oneself or others to act, one that serves as the spark that kindles inspiration and, one would hope, action. A useful prayer stands at the onset of a long chain of work that would otherwise disintegrate, bereft of motivated hands set to labor, unrealized and unfulfilled. A useful prayer swells a previously deflated heart and lifts spirits from the doldrums of depression. Are you following me?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Very good. The useless prayer stands in antithesis to the useful one as a shadow cast by the latter’s light. They are the pleas that fall upon deaf ears, both mortal and divine. Wishes for riches, absolution, forgiveness, and salvation. As empty as the air through which they’re breathed, they carry as much weight and permanence.”

“I get it,” I said, with as polite a tone as I could muster. “And now that you’ve explained the difference between useful and useless prayers so eloquently, I’m afraid that I’ve forgotten the original metaphor.”

“Consider being in the position to answer a prayer,” he said. “Imagine yourself as some beneficent deity that possesses the ultimate authority in granting the desires of your devotees. And you can also quantify that which I have just qualified: the power to measure on your holy scales the value of every individual request. Would you not find that, after an eternity of petty pestering, at least an ounce of boredom had permeated your divine existence?”

I thought about it. I thought about all the prayers I’d offered up in my time, both serious and offhanded, and had to concede that most of them hadn’t been worthy of divine consideration.

“It is with these explanations of compassion, the extolling of the virtue by those who have discovered its meaning and believe that they need to impress its value upon those they meet. It is as tiring as evangelism is to those who have no desire to join a cult.”

“How then do you deal with such circumstances, should they arise? Ones where you find yourself trapped in a lecture like that?” I asked.

“The compassionate thing would be to bear it, wouldn’t it?” he said. “Though I must confess that I am not always compassionate, nor humble, nor gracious, nor anywhere near as divine a creature as I could or should be. And therein lies the root of my impatience for such conversation; that though I am perfectly aware of the need for tender caring and open love in all things, there are times when the selfish lizard that’s really in charge, hissing instructions from the core of my being, well. There are times when I let that little scaly bastard drive.”

2015.01.02 – 2023.08.03

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